QualiTrace is an award winning traceability and anti-counterfeiting AgriTech startup company based in Accra, Ghana. That provides track and trace technology to authenticate and verify agro-based product inputs and outputs. In this e-Interview, Kenneth Nelson, the co-founder and CEO speaks with Alaba Ayinuola on how his brand is improving the livelihood of farmers and other stakeholders by empowering them to fight against fake agro input and assuring quality, using innovative technologies to trace food to the farm gates with just a click and Ghana producing innovative AgriTech Startups that equal compete globally. Excerpts.
Tell us about QualiTrace and the role you play?
The QualiTrace founded in 2017, has a concept built on the concept of traceability where a consumer can trace food produce to the farm gates.
QualiTrace is an Agri-Tech start-up Company that uses track and trace technology to authenticate product agro inputs (such as seeds and fertilizers) and outputs. QualiTrace not only authenticates but also provides a clear simple means by which players in any given supply chain can trace products along the chain till the final consumer also independently verifies the source and quality of the product.
QualiTrace also has a user friendly Artificial Intelligence technology (mobile app) that helps farmers identify diseases and pest infestation on crops and recommend treatment and the best quality agro input to fight it. Simply snap a photo of the affected area of the crop area and the app will predict the pest or disease is and recommend the right agro input. We provide technological solutions to improve the livelihoods of farmers.
Our vision is to bring innovative technologies to make life healthier for consumers (farmers & consumers)
I am a founding member and CEO. But, I prefer to be seen as the leader who literally leads the way by setting examples. I put myself out there by working the operations and business development of the company to encourage my team to put in their maximum best.
What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?
QualiTrace emerged from a social impact AgriTech competition called the Kosmos Innovation Center AgriTech challenge and won the 2017 edition with $50,000 seed investment to proof concept.
The competition was a 12 month training programme for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and dreams to make a difference in the Agriculture industry in Ghana and Africa as a whole. The programme is designed to allow individuals to form teams from the selected based on different but complimenting skills, academic backgrounds and experience with the same vision to solve a specific problem.
Winning the competition was “no walk in the park”. Twelve months training and eliminations at 3 stages before winners (team) are declared based on dedication, hard work, perseverance and “fire in the belly”. Prior to winning, our capital came from our own pockets and investing our time, energy and visions.
What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
The startup life and road of an entrepreneur is not for the weak. Hours of ideation, try and error, calculated risk and tears. There is no getting to the top in entrepreneurship. There is no end. When you get to a goal, you have to set another goal. You go far, so you can be strong enough to go further.
There are both internal and external challenges. Internal challenges ranges from team dynamics to raising extra funds to grow. External challenges comes with adaptation of your solution (technology) by users (farmers), people not believing it could be done, and most importantly, pressure from family tiers.
To an investor and other stakeholders in the industry, there is competition, but to me, the only competition I see is myself. Delivering and achieving more than the goals set is my competition. The focus now is to build the basic foundation of a business that will change the status quo in the agriculture industry.
Overcoming challenges in the startup and entrepreneurship world is a daily routine. It is what truly defines what Entrepreneurship is all about. What keeps me going in overcoming challenges is, I keep reminding myself “what is the purpose”. I proud of my achievements but it doesn’t mean I settle for them. I seek growth for myself and QualiTrace. Competition is one way of saying, “can you survive”!. To be the best, you must outwork the rest and overcoming challenges clearly means committing to every part of your life to build a brand that people can relate to.
How does your organisation measure it’s impacts?
Fighting counterfeit agrochemicals means ensuring farmers verifying their agro inputs before purchase. We measures impacts in two main ways. Number of counterfeits detected and the number of verifications on agro inputs purchased. Ensuring quality is key to produce quality food.
What is the future for QualiTrace and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
The focus is to be the best quality assurance and anti-counterfeiting company in Africa. We want to see QualiTrace as a Brand name that assures quality across Africa using innovative technologies to trace food to the farm gates with just a click. One way to do that is through collaboration. It is either you collaborate or you die!
How is your business contributing to the development of the agricultural sector in Ghana and Africa?
QualiTrace is gradually reducing the number of fake agrochemicals brought to Africa and ensure we produce quality and safe food for international markets and using simple technologies to do so. We believe in creating a system that is transparent and will enhance food safety and security.
What is your view on the development of Ghana business ecosystem?
Ghana and Africa as a whole has all it needs (resources) to grow exceedingly. To become the leaders and drivers of several industries from agriculture to technology to human capital and we continue to realize that from the number of Western investors coming to Africa to do business. Ghana is producing innovative AgriTech Startups that equal compete with the rest of the world as well as other African countries.
What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa.
Very few entrepreneurs can clearly state their purpose or why they want to be entrepreneurs. Once you can identify the reason why you do what you do, then you are half way through. If it was easy, everyone will do it but the journey as an entrepreneur takes more than just saying it. Just take the step and DARE TO DREAM!
What inspires you and keeps you going?
What keeps me going is my family. What I mean by family is my immediate family, my staff, my co-founders and my friends. What keeps me going is knowing very well that I am making a difference in the life of people and changing Ghana and Africa through innovation.
What inspire me are the challenges I face and overcome each day. As the saying goes, “if you do what is easy, life will be hard; but if you do what is hard, life will be easy”.
How do you relax and what books do you read?
Spending time with family, going on trips, and a little bit of sports keeps me relaxed. I read books mainly on Leadership, motivational speeches, and strategic and planning books.
Kenneth A. Nelson and team recently in Dubai presenting QualiTrace and QualiScan.
Born on the 6th of January, 1990 to Ghanaian parents, Kenneth A. Nelson is an Agribusiness expert with skills in supply chain management, marketing and sales.
Author Mark Twain once said that, “the two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why”. I cannot say if I have figured out the ‘why’ factor yet, but I believe entrepreneurship has always been my awakening. My motivation in life is to solve complex challenges and problems and making a difference in people’s life. Probably not for the fame but for the sweet satisfaction that you are closer to becoming the likes of Nelson Mandela and Albert Einstein.
My goals change from time to time with respect to the task or challenge that comes my way. But I also believe my utmost goal in life is to be remembered as a great Person.
Kindly with http://qualitracegh.com/
Darlyn Okojie on entrepreneurship and building Memo Africa
Darlyn Okojie is a serial entrepreneur and business expansion expert. As the Co-Founder & COO of Memo Africa, Darlyn is responsible for the day to day operation process while building a team to create a Tech solution to People Management. She founded Memo Africa with Ademola Koledoye to create memorable moments across the world. Darlyn Okojie has a past experience of building a business spanning three countries, raising capital and ensuring that the word about the service reaches the right audience. Her First Business, Rugs and Floors Africa, currently operates in three countries, Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Darlyn speaks on her entrepreneurship journey and vision is to make Memo Africa the go-to automated system for People Manager: “Future of Memo Africa”. Excerpts.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about your background?
Darlyn: I spent the early part of my childhood up till my youth in Benin City. I attended all levels of education down to university where I studied Accounting at the University of Benin. My upbringing has made me extremely loyal to my city. After I completed my higher education in 2014, I got my first ever job at Lamudi (Popularly Known as Jumia House) in 2015. While at Lamudi, I worked as a key account manager in an online marketplace firm. A year later, I moved to Cars45 to spearhead the company’s efforts in building and maintaining relationships with strategic partners. Throughout my career, I have been involved in various aspects of people management, even through running Rugs and Floors from January 2020. At the moment, I’m focused on building Memo Africa.
Alaba: What inspired you to go into entrepreneurship and the problems you plan to solve?
Darlyn: An impactful model to me is my father. I didn’t realise he had that effect on my entrepreneurship life until I looked back on how much I have been able to achieve career-wise. He showed me the only way to gain success is through hard work and dedication. His tenacity and energy in delivering is extraordinary. There have been countless times where I’ve found myself wondering how he gets the energy to go even through obstacles. A quote from a book by Shakespeare, Macbeth, pops into my head whenever I think about my dad. “I am tied to a stake I cannot fly, but bear-like I must fight the cause.”
The life of an entrepreneur is quite fast-paced, there’s no time for breaks and no option to quit, you just have to keep going. It reminds me of something my mum always says, “Person, nor dey Live life go back”. Good or bad we need to keep moving forward in life or in business. I believe my motivation stems from the ability to keep going and building.
Alaba: Memo Africa is one of the startups you co-founded, what sparked the interest? How does the platform work and who are your target audience?
Darlyn: Memo Africa was birthed by various challenges both my co-founder and I faced throughout our work life. From my first job to my current ventures, I have seen how people managers handle welfare related issues in organizations and it inspired me to create a solution that makes their work seamless. We notice that people struggle to remember important dates when it comes to the lives of their employees and it is key because it makes the employees feel valued and appreciated. But dates like birthdays, onboarding and orientation processes, sendforths, and many others dates are lost in transition.
Memo Africa is a simple solution that people managers can use to automate welfare packages to be delivered to both remote and on-site teams across the world. We believe this technology solution will boost business productivity as the team members feel motivated and cared for while saving people managers time to focus on more critical issues.
Alaba: Since you launched, what are the challenges and successes?
Darlyn: It would be best if we start with the positive aspect of the business, the success. At the moment, we have acquired clients both from Nigeria and Ghana, and signed three companies into our system. We have achieved these while facing various economical challenges like Inflation, exchange rate and cross-border payments issues.
I also noticed that small business owners and other entrepreneurs face these challenges which is why I recently started recording my journey on my Medium account.
Alaba: What’s the future of people management? Do you see Memo Africa as part of the future?
Darlyn: The future is Tech! The world is evolving to become digital and automated. It is important to ensure that regardless of where people work from, they are treated with the same respect and dignity as they would be if they were working from a traditional office space. Memo Africa is the technology solution born to connect the people in an organization through our automated management system of celebrating them. Staying connected to and creating memorable moments for your team is the best way to keep them motivated while working.
Alaba: Where do you see Memo Africa in the next 5 years in terms of market and expansion?
Darlyn: We have a large vision set for Memo Africa and are ready to take the action to grow and scale up the Tech StartUp. Currently, our most viable product which is our website is up and running. We are planning on developing the Mobile App version to increase the accessibility and personalisation of the system. We expect to become the go-to platform for all people’s welfare across Africa and in the world. Our tentacles are set to expand into many African countries. We are open to acquiring more clients, partners and Investors.
Alaba: What fuels your passion and how do you relax?
Darlyn: Aside from the rush of the non-stop cycle of developing businesses, I find myself passionate about finding and implementing solutions to create value in people’s lives. You can find me locked on Netflix to unwind after a busy day or exploring the different countries in the world.
Alaba: Lastly, your advice to young women who want to launch into entrepreneurship?
Darlyn: My number one advice to young women who are launching or building their business is that your key to success lies within you. Everything you need to succeed is in you, your thoughts and action shapes your future. As long as you can think it, you can absolutely do it. You need to study and understand your potential, strength, weaknesses and limits. I believe self awareness is the most powerful tool to achieve anything in the world.
I would also say you shouldn’t believe you can only grow & scale up alone, it’s okay to have mentors and role models. These people have walked the mile. All you need to do is find someone who has successfully crossed the path you are hoping to pass. You would be surprised by the number of people ready to guide you or refer you to the next life challenger.
Eno Eka: Creating Her Dream Life in Canada
Eno Eka is a business analyst and consultant based in Calgary, Alberta. An award-winning career coach and keynote speaker who has been recognized for helping more than 100,000 professionals in 90+ countries kick start their professional careers. She is a business analysis content developer and course instructor at the University of Manitoba. Eno is the CEO of Eny Consulting Inc. and the Founder of Business Analysis School.
In 4 years of arriving in Canada, Eno has touched the lives of thousands of immigrants in Canada. She has curated mentorship and coaching programs for immigrants to Canada which have sought her recognition and awards globally. Eno is an embodiment of service as she volunteers with several non-profit organizations to help immigrants to Canada integrate successfully and become gainfully employed.
Eno volunteers as a mentor with Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC) and sits on the Board of the IIBA Calgary Chapter as Director of Education. She also volunteers at the Calgary Drop-in Centre and Calgary Dream Centre. She is a Giving Back Sponsor for the Women in Need Society (WINS). Eno Eka is the host of the Livestream Podcast, Fireside Chat With Eno where she shares valuable insights on job search tips and strategies for new immigrants.
Her awards and achievements include:
- Forbes 30 under 30 nominees 2020, Education Category.
- Alberta Top 30 under 30 recipients 2021.
- Calgary Top 40 under 40 nominees 2019 and 2020.
- Universal Women’s Network, Winner 2019 Award for Mentorship.
- RBC Women of Influence 2020 Award Recipient.
- Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada 2020 Award Recipient.
- Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 award Nominee 2020 and 2022.
- RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards Nominee 2020.
- Alberta Women Entrepreneurs Nominee 2021.
- Immigrants of Distinction Awards Nominee Finalist 2021.
- 2020 Tällberg/Eliasson Global Leadership Prize Nominee.
- Top 8 Female Business Analysis Influencers To Watch in 2021-Globally Recognized & Featured by the IIBA.
- Women of Impact Awards Nominee 2022.
- Women Empowerment Awards Nominee 2022.
- Campaign Ambassador for the United Nations and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
- Host of the Global Business Analyst Online Meetup.
- IIBA Global Corporate Member.
- IIBA Endorsed Education Provider for all IIBA certifications.
- Authorized Training Partner for Agile & Scrum through ScrumStudy
Oumnia Boualam is helping African and Arab Women “do business better”
Moroccan Oumnia Boualam is an experienced Business Growth Expert and the Managing Director at Brussels Global Review (BGR). She helps Arab and African female entrepreneurs and coaches get clarity, build a personal brand and grow a successful business online. Currently, Oumnia oversees several advisory reports on key economic trends in the Middle East and Africa, helping businesses and investors get key information for their decision making process. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Oumnia Boualam talks about her corporate experience and her passion for Arab and African female entrepreneurs. Excerpt.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about yourself and Brussels Global Review?
Oumnia: Growing up I was very shy and introverted. I never felt comfortable socialising and even dreaded going to school in Morocco (which is where I am from). That completely changed once I moved abroad at 18 to study then work in international sales and marketing. I used to work for a very demanding company selling High Ticket advertising in Emerging Countries. This meant I had to live in various countries (9 in total) and conduct on average 300 meetings per year. While this was an exhausting job, It allowed me to learn how to become adaptable and sociable in the business environment. When the pandemic started I decided to move away from this environment and start building my own business focusing on Sustainable Development and helping Africans and Arabs “do business better”.
I moved to Brussels and co-founded Brussels Global Review. We produce Sustainability reports on the MEA region for an audience of EU decision makers (here in Brussels). In parallel we have 2 signature online programs designed to help African and Arab professionals develop their digital skills, communication and confidence.
Alaba: Could you briefly share some of your experience as a corporate leader, your highs and lows?
Oumnia: Highs: Being able to see how many people I help through my social media content. Lows: Having to deal with toxic corporate culture, lack of support and judgments as a young African, woman entrepreneur.
Alaba: What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Oumnia: I am most proud of the program I have created: The Digital Boss Academy. It’s going to help so many young professionals in Africa and the Middle East to leverage the digital economy to earn more.
Alaba: What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
Oumnia: I wouldn’t call it a strategy but more of a personality trait: Curiosity. Being curious and not always following outdated methods and strategies just because that’s what is being said or that’s the way it’s being done. I also strongly believe in learning from life experience rather than having prestigious degrees and that is a crucial skill in Business.
Alaba: Can you share your thoughts on Gender Inclusion in Africa and the Arab entrepreneurship ecosystem?
Oumnia: Not enough is being done to change the mindsets. There can be new regulations, new programs and so on. But if the mindsets of both men and women don’t change in terms of really considering equal opportunities for both genders then we will make very slow progress. Women are still expected to have kids and get married before having a career in our society. Some women founders are being asked what will happen to their business once they start a family. We also don’t have enough success stories to inspire and empower women to follow their dreams.
Alaba: Kindly walk us through a typical day as an entrepreneur and how do you relax?
Oumnia: Every day is different for me because I tend to get bored with routine activities. But one thing remains the same every single day from 06.00am to 09.00am I write and create content. This is the time of the day my brain is most active and also as a natural introvert I feel much more comfortable when things are quiet so I can be deeply focused.
Alaba: What advice would you give to any woman who wants to launch into entrepreneurship?
Oumnia: Starting a business is not as hard as you think if you’re willing to learn. The hard part is to overcome your fear and mindset blocks. That requires a lot of personal development work and it’s not comfortable to go through it.